Australia Backs Israel in ICC Fight

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Israel ICC
Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90/File)

Australia has taken Israel’s side in rejecting the International Criminal Court decision to open an investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes.

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said on Wednesday: “Australia is concerned by the ICC Prosecutor’s proposal to consider the situation in the Palestinian Territories, subject to a ruling by the Court’s Pre-Trial Chamber on the scope of the Court’s territorial jurisdiction in the matter.”

Like Israel and the U.S., Australia does not recognize a Palestinian state and therefore does not see it as a party to the Rome Statute, the agreement leading to the ICC’s formation, the ministry told J-Wire, a Jewish news outlet serving Australia and New Zealand.

This puts it in line with the U.S. policy articulated by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said on Friday that the Palestinians are not entitled to bring cases to the ICC since they have no state, unless Israel agrees to it or by referral from the U.N. Security council.

“We firmly oppose this unjustified inquiry that unfairly targets Israel. The path to lasting peace is through direct negotiations,” Pompeo said.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz tweeted, “Many thanks to the Australian government for taking the unequivocal and principled stance against the ICC prosecutor’s decision.

“I urge other countries to take a similar stance and not allow the court to turn into a political weapon against Israel,” Katz said.

Germany, a consistent supporter of the ICC (U.S. and Israel are not members), sought a middle ground, expressing confidence in the court while doubting its jurisdiction in the matter.

“We trust the independence of the International Criminal Court and are now confident that the court will resolve the issues raised. This will also address issues of admissibility that may be doubtful,” foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Adebahr said in response to a reporter’s question.

“We as the federal government cannot comment on specific details of ongoing proceedings. But, as I said, we trust that all arguments will belong fairly in the further proceedings. We are, of course, also committed to making the court strict on the basis of the Rome Statute,” she said.

“Basically, it applies to us that we naturally resist the fact that cases of any kind are used to politicize before the court. We are betting that admissibility will be checked and that the court will do it on the basis of the Rome Statute.”

Israeli officials were surprised by Germany’s caveat about politicization, given the country’s pro-ICC policy, according to The Times of Israel.

In Israel, the campaign to discredit the ICC continued, as Defense Minister Naftali Bennett called it a “breeding ground for modern anti-Semitism.”

Speaking at a ceremony at the conclusion of an Israeli military pilot course, Bennett says: “When you take off for a mission to surgically hit our enemies, you deal with immense pressure. A new aspect has been added in recent days to that pressure — the ICC in The Hague. That cannot hold you back.

“You defend us, we will defend you. No soldier or commander will be deterred from protecting the lives of his people and family because of the hypocritical court in The Hague.

“Any attempt to please or appease this body will not succeed. The Hague is a breeding ground for modern anti-Semitism. It encourages terror. Now that it is clear, we must treat it as such. We will fight terror as if there is no Hague, and fight The Hague as if there is no terror.”

Earlier in the week, Prime Minister Netanyahu accused the ICC of anti-Semitism.

Shomron Regional Council Head Yossi Dagan on Wednesday sent a letter to The Hague which accused the chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda of hypocrisy for opening a probe into possible war crimes by Israel, given her own involvement in a brutal dictatorship in Gambia.

“This is an unprecedented display of cynicism from the prosecutor who is trying to charge IDF commanders and local municipal leaders in Judea and Samaria with the ‘crime’ of living and building the heartland of the Jewish nation,” Dagan wrote.

“This, while she herself held key positions as a general prosecutor and justice minister for a murderous government in the State of Gambia, which acts to repress human rights.”